Those words, famously penned by G. Anderson, is perhaps the reason why my wife and I have chosen to put the proverbial pen to paper. Our decision to embark on what can only be the most challenging, and possibly the most rewarding, chapter of our lives has inspired us to keep a record of these events. A journal, so to speak, of the trials and tribulations that are sure to be encountered, but also the joys and wonders that we will almost certainly discover. Perhaps our children and their children will one day look back upon these words and find comfort and knowledge. It seems dreamy and a bit romantic to think of such things, but at the very least…when we are old and gray…Melissa and I can come back to these writings and revisit the journey, while we rest peacefully at our destination.
What is this journey, you ask? A trick question no doubt and one not easily answered. Yet, the concept is simple, but the answer may seem complex. What is the journey?
Self reliance, living off the grid, a return to the old ways, frugal living, or as we’ll simply call it…homesteading. It has many names, but ultimately it is an attempt to shed the so called “comforts” of the modern world, to discover what lies beneath the gaudy mantle of commercialism, and ultimately embrace a simpler life that focuses on the beauty of family and the truth of true freedom. The earn, spend, earn era has come to an end for us.
We have said farewell to the constant bombardment of social and economical pressures that have for so long maintained a stranglehold on pure happiness. No more shall we embrace debt as a way to reward ourselves for hard work. No longer will the unrealistic and unattainable image of the ‘Jones’, that the media and Hollywood relentlessly spit out at us, be sought. No, from this day forward, our perspective has, and must, change.
The idea of living a fuller more satisfying life seems simple to us now. Yet, it wasn’t that long ago that we remained mired in the faulty reasoning that led us into debt, false happiness, and spiritual emptiness. One day, however, Melissa had an epiphany of such earth shattering simplicity that our view of everything changed. Family, friends, wealth, happiness, love, God; it all suddenly came into focus. You see, 2008 had brought many lows to us. The death of Melissa’s mother, and an economic crisis were the catalyst in a deep unhappiness we, as a family, had never quite experienced before. Sure, we have all had our ups and downs, but this time things were different, and we kept asking ourselves why? Why was this happing to us? No matter how hard we tried we couldn’t recover. We attempted everything that commercialized society told us to do. We bought things, went on vacations, worked harder, earned more money, but still our grief and hardships plagued us. Again, why was this happening to us?
Melissa’s answer to this question was to me, profound. One day, while crying over a pay check I had earned, that was sizable by most standards, but woefully inept considering our situation, Melissa stated the obvious. Through saddened tears she said. “Maybe all this keeps happening to show us that we’re doing it all wrong.”
Money, cash, credit….maybe they don’t matter. Maybe, just maybe, it is those things that impede our ability to be truly happy. Is it possibly that the idea of working hard, earning a paycheck, spending the money to reward yourself was a false way to live? Maybe not for you or even anyone else…but for us it is the antithesis of life. By dramatically reducing our expenses we believe that we can have a fuller, happier life, concentrating on our family without all the noise of media markets and subliminal peer pressure.
Our formula is simple. By spending less, we don‘t need to earn as much money. In the past we viewed saving money as a way to be able to buy other stuff. New cars, expensive toys, high end clothing…all the things that we were told would make us happy. After becoming experts in spending cash, we discovered we weren’t happy at all. It had all been a cleverly crafted myth to keep us in the unending cycle of earning, consuming, and ultimately, guilt and unhappiness. Wealth, no longer looked upon the same, has taken on a more accurate and precise meaning. True wealth for us can no longer be weighed on the scales of economic excess or gauged be the newest devices and trinkets the market has to offer.
Recently, our daughter Gabrielle was having a rough time with things. When Melissa asked her what was wrong Gabrielle told her in an honesty known only to kids: “I miss my dad.” That didn’t break my heart…it shattered it! What is more important than being there for your loved ones? Money? Prestige?
Nothing. With hard work, and yes it will be hard, we will be able to live the richest life possible, spending time with one another as opposed to spending money. In this life, cash will not be the be-all-end-all, and our time together will be more precious than the rarest of gems.
Lastly, I should say, that this is not a way for us to change the world, or make a political statement. It is not an attempt to convert others to be green or expose some diabolical conspiracy forged by the forces that be. It is not some overly romantic dream where we will drink cupfuls of rainbows, and dine on happy thoughts. No, it is simply a journey for us…a journey to find our way home.